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Shot in the Head!!!

Updated on March 21, 2018

Emmett Till was born on July 25, 1941, in Chicago, Illinois U.S. to Mamie Carthan and Louis Till. His parents separated when Emmett was very young and he was raised by his mother and grandmother.

Early Life:

Emmett Till Born July 25th 1941 in Chicago Illinois to his mother Mamie Carthan and Louis Till. Emmet Till’s parents divorced when he was still a very young and he spent most of his time just him and his mother.

Emmett Till’s body began to develop at a young age, and by age 14 he began to look like a fully grown adult. He was very stocky in build.

So growing up in the south side of Chicago Emmett Till spent most of his child hood without a father figure. Trying to navigate life with just him and his mother could not have been easy. The bravery and courage of his mother Mamie Carthan cannot be over stated.

Raising a child on your own, especially during the racially prejudice times they were living in was very difficult. Wages were low, work was hard, and living challenging but they managed.

Emmett meant the world to Mamie Carthan. He was the bright spot during a dark time in American history. We like to convince ourselves that slavery did not happen in this country. We like to think that there were not very real and prevalent race issues poisoning the nation of America then and even still today.

But the temperature of the nation was especially cold during these times. And young Emmett Till did his best to fit into a society that was not created for him to survive, and flourish.

The Visit to Mississippi:

Emmett Till decides to visit some relatives in Mississippi, and before he goes his mother warns him that Mississippi is not like Chicago. It’s a lot more segregated there, and you can be killed for talking to the wrong person the wrong way.

Emmett’s mother knew that Emmett had a big personality and liked to tell a lot of jokes and she wanted him to be safe. Mississippi was famous for the lynching and hanging of African Americans. Inspiring a song in 1939 Written by teacher Abel Meeropol as a poem and published in 1937, it protested American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans. Such lynching’s had reached a peak in the South at the turn of the century, but continued there and in other regions of the United States.[2][3]

Sang powerfully by Billie Holiday the lyrics are:

“Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop”.

This was the kind of environment that Emmett Till was going into when he traveled to Mississippi. He was just visiting some close relatives and never expected what was going to happen next.

His Crime:

On August 24th while hanging out with one of his cousins and some friends outside a local store, Emmett started to brag that his girlfriend back in Southside Chicago was White.

His friends did not believe him so they dared him to ask a White Woman sitting behind the store counter to go out on a date. So Emmett went in, bought some candy and on the way out was heard saying, “Bye Baby” to the Woman.

There were no witnesses in the store but Carolyn Bryant. The Woman later claimed that Emmett grabbed her, made vulgar advances and wolf whistled at her.

His Death:

Roy Bryant, the Woman’s husband returned from a business trip a few days later and heard everything that Emmett supposedly did and was infuriated. Again these were racially sensitive times; the culture of the nation was hatred, anger, and bigotry.

Enraged Roy went to Emmett’s great uncles house with his brother in law early in the morning on August 28th demanding to see the boy. Emmett’s great uncle was too old to hold them off, and they forced Emmett into the car.

They drove him to the Tallahatchie River and who knows all that they did to him in the car ride there. The two men made Emmett carry 75 pound cotton –gin fan to the bank of Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take his clothes off.

The two men then beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, and shot him in the head. They then threw his body tied to the cotton-gin fan with barbed wire into the river.

I shed tears, hands trembling as I finish this article. This innocent young fourteen year old boy was beaten to death and shot in the head for supposedly whistling at a woman.

Emmett’s dreams died that day. His mother’s sunlight and joy died that day. As we are violently reminded of the crimes of the south during this period of American history.

Three days later his corpse was recovered but was disfigured to such a degree that Moses Right could only identify it by an initialed ring. The authorities wanted to bury the body quickly to hide the reality of the nation’s race problem.

Hide the truth; bury this talk of racial injustice. But the body was sent back to Chicago.

The Funeral:

Emmett’s Till’s mother chose to have an open casket funeral so that the world could see what racist murderers had done to her only son.

Emmett’s body stood as a testament of the reality of the time. So many people wanted to believe that race was not an issue in America. So many people wanted to think that it was not as bad as African Americans were portraying it to be.

Emmett Till’s body was an opportunity for blacks in America to say, “Now will you listen?” The same way Trayvon Martin’s body, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner and many more speak to the reality of racial injustice today.

Now will you listen?

The trial:

On September 23rd an all-white Jury issued a verdict of not guilty explaining the state failed to prove the identity of the body.

There was an outrage around the nation because of the decision not to charge Milam and Bryant.

Carolyn Bryant later confesses that “Till had never touched, threatened or harassed her. Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him”, she said.

What can we learn from Emmett Till’s story:

First just the reality that these events did actually take place in this country. There has been a very subtle white washing of American history. White America wants to tell a story that did not truly happen, or even worse hide key elements of the truth to progress a narrative that is not entirely accurate.

Trump says “Make America great again”, and in the words of Lecrae Moore, “Wait, when was America great again? Was it when you took blacks from their Native land, or maybe when you took the Natives land”.

We have to be able to honestly look back on history and say this did happen, how does that affect the black community today. The natives today and every other race that feels marginalized in this country.

Also I want to arouse empathy in your heart to sociological issues in this nation that matter. Emmett Till is not just 1955, Emmett Till is still happening in 2018. Be awakened to white privilege and racial injustice. Be awakened to systemic racism. Be awakened to police brutality. Be aware of the White washing of Religion in this country.

Know that these things are taking place and use your voice to fight back. I stand for equal righta for all in this nation under God grace.


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